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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virgina home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.

 

Find Jennifer on Twitter & Goodreads.

http://jenniferharlowbooks.com/

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item1 MARY SUE vs. DEBBIE HARRY item1
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Urban Dictionary Definition of a Mary Sue:

A female character in FanFic or original stories who is so perfect, so superior to all other characters, so powerful,she's annoying. Often based on the author.

(See Ana Steele, Bella Swan, TV Sookie Stackhouse)

Jennifer Harlow Definition of a Debbie Harry:

A female character who is flawed in many ways but does her best to overcome and accept them, is mouthy or prickly, strong or finds her strength, and who has to work for all she has, especially love.   

(See Anita Blake, Kinsey Milhone, Lizbeth Salander)

 

I consider myself a tough broad. I have a mouth on me, dirty a lot of the times, I've walked through dangerous cities at night alone, I've seen someone assaulted and got my friends out of the situation while keeping a calm head, and I've kicked not one but three dudes in the balls when they wanted to play rough and I didn't. I can shoot a gun, change a tire, I kill spiders and open jars for my brothers, and I take shit from no one. I'm not ugly but it takes over an hour for me to become pretty. The only things I'm exceptional at are dispensing advice, storytelling, and keeping fish alive (Beta Larry lived 2! years). I'm stubborn, solitary, I have no sex appeal or mojo, and I live with my parents.  In other words, I am not a Mary Sue. I am a human being, flawed yet still fabulous. And so should your main character be.

I came across the term "Mary Sue" when I read an article on "Fifty Shades of Grey" (yes, I read the book. Got it from the library. Wasn't great, wasn't terrible, read it in about three hours.) Like most blockbuster books, there was some derision about it, especially from authors. So much was said but for the purpose of this blog I'll just focus on the main character Ana. She was definitely a Mary Sue: perfect, every male falling over her, had the supernatural gift of having mind blowing orgasms every time. The woman would not exist in the real world. 

In this article (which I'm sorry I can't remember the name of, sorry) the author also mentioned that this type of character a "Mary Sue" was prevalent in Fan Fiction, which is how Fifty got its start. The term came into existence when Paula Smith wrote a short story about the type of female character prevalent in Star Trek FanFic. Mary Sue was only fifteen, a genius, the youngest lieutenant, with unprecedented skill in everything both mental and physical, and is beloved by all characters in this case especially Spock and Kirk. Mary Sue has no flaws, she struggles at nothing, and everyone fawns over her. In other words, she's boring. Unbelievable. Those are the worst words any writer can face.

If Mary Sue kept herself contained in the pages of FanFic I'd really have no problem with her. Full disclosure, I don't read or write FanFic. My roommate was obsessed with it, especially Wincest (EWWWW) and Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy parings. I understand the desire to write them. These are characters you love, and in writing the Fic you get to tinker with those characters however you see fit. You put yourself into this fantasy world. You're in control. But before Fifty no one was really making money on it. Now publishers are checking the sites for the next Fifty. Besides the copyright issues, my main concern is that more characters like Ana (a copy of Bella Swan) are going to be the norm. The only acceptable female lead will be demure, gorgeous, subservient, basically a feminist like me's worst nightmare. Ana let a man tie her up and spank her just to please him. Bella literally became a teenage bride, got knocked up, then DIED in childbirth. This is what has captured the minds of American women. It gives me chills.

When it came time to write my latest book, Werewolf Sings the Blues, I made the conscious decision not to let my main character Vivian be anything close to a Mary Sue. In fact, what makes her special is that she is not special. She is a normal woman who finds herself thrust into the dangerous world of werewolves and on the run. When I first conceived this story she was more of a Mary Sue. She was an art student with a wonderful family, but I soon scrapped that character because I was tired of reading let alone writing that kind of character. The new Vivian cusses like a sailor, drinks too much, has a minor drug problem, makes tons of bad decisions, and nothing ever comes easy for her. Yet she owns up to her flaws, is calm in the face of danger, and really tries to overcome her shortcomings. In other words, she's wasn’t perfect, and there's a reason for that. Perfection is boring. Who would you rather hang out with, spend money on? Little Miss Perfect Mary Sue or flawed, funny, tough Debbie Harry? Me, I'd rather spend an hour with an interesting shit than a whole day with a super nice person. You get more from Debbie than Mary Sue.

 

 

 

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What about all of you? Do you prefer Mary Sue or Debbie Harry? Why? Am I being too hard on poor Mary Sue? Can you think of any other examples of either?

Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a a copy of EXPOSURE! (U.S. entrants only, please.)

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